Categorized | planning

8 Key signs that your schedule is not robust

The project schedule is one of the key documents for project managers. It describes the series of activities that will lead your project and its team to deliver your objective. However despite the document being of key importance there are issues that can prevent it from being both robust and accurate. Project plans can go wrong in a number of ways for example

• The schedule is inaccurate from the start
• The project team has significant issues during the project but fails to re-align the schedule

But given their importance, what makes project schedules inaccurate? Consider the following.

1/ The project plan is not reviewed by peers

Whomever the project manager uses as a peer review whether this is the sponsor/steering committee through to other project managers – having an experienced second set of eyes review the plan can make all the difference spotting errors or omissions or providing a useful critique.

2/ Work package leads fail to buy in to the plan

Project plans constructed by the project manager in isolation from the team can be inaccurate – especially where the team may be more informed (subject matter experts) on their activity than the PM. An alternative is where work package leads provide a critique of the plan (or in many cases actually submit it) but the project manager fails to incorporate the comments.

3/ First activities take longer than scheduled

When the project is launched and the first set of activities take longer than indicated by the plan then that is a good indicator that the plan may need further review. The PM (Project Manager) should review project plan vs achievement regularly to monitor adherence and spot problems early – where problems do occur can the schedule be caught up? Will you need to re-baseline?

4/ Project plan is not reflective of capacity

Projects require resources (people and material) – if a project plan assumes limitless availability of resources that isn’t aligned with reality then there is a fair likelihood that it will fail. Be sure to check your plan against available personnel AND working patterns.

5/ Dependencies and constraints are not clear

Dependencies are where one activity relies on another to be completed before it can start (for example an IT system has a dependency of hardware being installed). Constraints are things that either prevent an activity or slow it down (e.g. available resources) – if the project plan does not correctly account for these then it is fundamentally flawed.

6/ Project sponsors and steering board are dubious

If you’ve presented the project plan to your steering committee and they are dubious about it being robust then that its a good idea to take another look. What were there comments – how can you incorporate there ideas? Have you been too aggressive in your planning or are you estimating certain tasks take longer than required?

7/ Slippage in the plan already but your completion date remains the same

Where you’ve had significant issues and your plan has slipped it’s advisable to review your schedule and re-plan where required. Many project managers fail to do this and instead assume that they will still meet their original delivery date. Whilst in many cases you can catch up with your original schedule – it’s inadvisable to assume that this will just happen – you will need a route.

8/ You have not carried out a risk assessment

Many project schedules fail because the project team have failed to account for risks within the project. Risks when materialized can have a significant effect on the schedule – if you fail to adequately assess your projects for risks your schedule could be unrealistic.

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